31st March 1532 – Friar Peto’s Easter Sermon

Posted By on March 31, 2013

King Ahab

On Easter Sunday 1532, 31st March, Princess Mary’s confessor, Friar William Peto, preached a rather controversial sermon in the King’s presence at Greenwich’s Franciscan chapel.

Instead of focusing on the Easter story and Christ’s resurrection, Peto, who supported Catherine of Aragon, spoke on 1 Kings 22, in which Micaiah shares his prophecies with King Ahab, but Ahab ignores them and imprisons Micaiah. Ahab then died from wounds inflicted during the battle:

“So the King died and was brought to Samaria, and they buried him there. They washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria (where the prostitutes bathed), and the dogs licked up his blood, as the word of the Lord had declared.”

Peto compared Henry VIII to Ahab, drawing comparisons between Anne Boleyn and Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, who had replaced God’s prophets with pagan priests, as Anne was promoting men of the New Religion. Peto concluded by warning the King that if he carried on the way he was, he would end up like Ahab, and dogs would lick up his blood, too. Peto wanted to set Henry VIII on the right path. He wanted him to abandon Anne Boleyn, with her heretical views, and return to Catherine of Aragon. Henry, however, believed his marriage to Catherine to be invalid, and tried to persuade Peto of that.

Although Peto had preached a dangerous sermon, he escaped with his life and was just imprisoned for a few months. He left England and went into exile.

When Henry VIII’s coffin rested at Syon, on its way to Windsor for burial in February 1547, it is said that some liquid leaked out of it. Of course, this was seen as the fulfilment of Peto’s prophecy.

Taken from my book On This Day in Tudor History.

4 thoughts on “31st March 1532 – Friar Peto’s Easter Sermon”

  1. RosieMay says:

    “When Henry VIII’s coffin rested at Syon, on its way to Windsor for burial in February 1547, it is said that some liquid leaked out of it. Of course, this was seen as the fulfilment of Peto’s prophecy.”

    Does anyone know how how true this is?

  2. C Ferry says:

    However one may feel about Friar Peto’s sermon, it was brave of him to state his beliefs publicly in front of Henry. I am surprised that he wasn’t executed for it. Any speculation as to why he wasn’t?!

    1. Dee says:

      There’s any number of possibilities. Henry didn’t get really “mean” until 1535, 1536. Recent speculation includes some medical issues, including the fall from his horse in Jan 1536, which could have altered his personality. If the sermon had been said after that date, I’m almost positive there would have been much more serious repercussions!

      I also think at this point, Henry (& Anne) were still hoping for a favorable resolution from the Pope, and he was therefore beng politic (I think that’s the word).

      1. C. Ferry says:

        Dee – good point about Henry and Anne hoping for a favorable decision from the Pope.
        Although more intelligent heads than mine speculate that 1536 was a turning point for Henry in his downward spiral, my two cents is that we can see it beginning before then: the anger over the Pope’s refusal to grant an annulment resulting in the break with Rome. I know some argue that Henry truly believed that his marriage to Katherine of Aragon was invalid, and perhaps he did talk himself into that one, but to me it reads like a spoiled and vengeful child who wants his way. From here we see Henry escalate from an intractable meanness of spirit into depraved cruelty.

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